As far as introduction songs, it doesn’t get much better than this. Where Slim had ‘My Name Is‘ and J. Cole assured us , Theophilus (I can’t believe that’s his real name but legitimately, it is) bursts onto a scene already primed for his arrival by a massive EP dropped in February. That taster, featuring Solange Knowles, Tegan and Sara and TV On The Radio‘s Dave Sitek amongst an A-list cast of hipsters and cool dudes, went down accordingly. It was thus that I came, rather sceptically, to the table to listen to ‘Timez Are Weird These Days’, the 24 year-old Brooklyn local’s first long-player released two weeks ago – careful with the hype but quietly excited.
On first listen, I’d have to say that I was slightly disappointed. ‘‘ was a little too TVOTR for me to be enjoyable rap and ‘All Around The World’ was channeling too much Western to really cut through in the way that it should have. More than that, Theophilus has got some strange phrasing going whereby it seems that he’s taking a breath every three words, which really tends to disrupt the flow of his tracks, hindering accessibility. Needless to say, as with most good things, London takes time. As much as I hate to subscribe to the ‘slashie’ descriptor phenomenon where every new artist is described in historical terms of all the composite sounds that make up their current being, it’s hard to shy away from the soul/electro/R&B/post-punk/stoner-rap/indie-rock terms in which Theophilus’ talent is breathlessly congratulated.
All that said, he is not the first nor will he be the last artist to successfully blend a couple of successful genres to generate crossover appeal. I’d point to M.I.A. and her ilk (Santigold, who deserves to be distanced, included) as a point in case. Nonetheless, it’s not often you get such a tantalising chimera that ends up sounding good. It’s something like slushies at 7/11. You can put all the coke and raspberry and orange and blue (what the eff is the blue flavour supposed to represent?) and mix it all around and it might taste awesome for the first couple of slurps but almost inevitably, you’re going to be left with brown sludge at the end of the experiment that nobody wants to drink. London than, by extension, has successfully avoided becoming the sludge that nobody wants to listen to by extracting the best bits of Kid Cudi, Lykke Li and Wale on ‘Last Name London’ and keeping them separate but sweetly intertwined. That, and the fact that the chorus is so damn straightforward and catchy, means that you won’t forget this kid’s name anytime soon.
Theophilus London – Last Name London